Jamestown Historical Society

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An Island Economy: Jamestown Businesses

Summer Exhibit 2024

The summer 2024 exhibit looks at Jamestown’s changing economy and at the businesses that the growth spawned.

For two centuries the business of Jamestown was agriculture. At mid-19th-century, 1400 sheep produced over 4800 pounds of wool annually, and the milk from 400 milch cows was processed into almost 5500 pounds of butter and cheese. Fishermen called the island home but caught and sold their catch elsewhere. A single miller, a traveling blacksmith, lighthouse keepers, and ferrymen who often doubled as inn keepers supported the central economy. 

With the advent of steam power, new businesses arose. The steam ferry brought summer visitors, which in turn stimulated construction and innkeeping. Visitors brought horses and then automobiles to be cared for and fueled. The island’s reputation as a healthy place away from the dirt and smog of the city and a place to have fun gave rise to other businesses.

Become a JHS Member

Help preserve & share the history of Jamestown, RI. Maintain the Museum, the Windmill, the Meetinghouse and the Conanicut Battery. Preserve the Society’s collection of documents, photographs and artifacts.